The picks are in: Predictions on games around the country this weekend

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 4, 2013 

AUBURN, Ala. — I'll go ahead and put it out there right now: I went 14-1 last week. (Notre Dame/Oklahoma was the one game I picked incorrectly. Obviously, I picked the Fighting Irish.) That's all I'm going to say about it, lest I jinx myself. However, it gives me hope that I might go 15-0 one week.

One other note before we get to the picks. I've noticed how long-winded I've been here in recent editions of this piece. Last week's went over 2,000 words. I'm not Bill Simmons, so that's not going to work. Going forward, I'll do my best to make sure this is a lighter read.

Now let's get pickin'. (As always, the times listed below are Eastern. Thanks for your cooperation in advance.)

Strictly SEC

No. 6 Georgia at Tennessee, 3:30 p.m.

Remember how I linked to that story earlier in the week which detailed how far Rocky ran in his training montage in "Rocky II?" Well I'm stealing a scene from "Rocky III" to make my prediction for this contest.

Reporter: "What's your prediction for the game?"

Me: "Prediction?"

Reporter: "Yes, prediction."

Me (turning to face the camera): "Pain."

(If you're flummoxed by what I'm talking about, I've linked to the clip below.)

Black picks: Bulldogs 52, Volunteers 17

Arkansas at No. 18 Florida, 7 p.m.

After falling to Rutgers two weeks ago, Arkansas gave a spirited effort before losing to Texas A&M last Saturday. That was at home, though.

Going into "The Swamp" and winning is another story.

Black picks: Gators 27, Razorbacks 17

No. 10 LSU at Mississippi State, 7 p.m.

I've seen both of these teams in-person, so I can say Dak Prescott is great.

But he's not transcendent enough to beat Zach Mettenberger, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Jeremy Hill and a host of other talented Tigers by himself.

Black picks: Tigers 41, Bulldogs 24

Missouri at Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m.

The Commodores have lost both Southeastern Conference games they have played thus far. Meanwhile, the Tigers are 4-0 without facing a league foe.

I'd say this is the week Missouri starts to tumble back to Earth.

Black picks: Commodores 34, Tigers 20

Kentucky at No. 13 South Carolina, 7:30 p.m.

Hey, did anyone hear what Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops had to say about this game following his team's practice on Wednesday?

"Our guys are looking for a rock to hide under. It's going to be a very difficult and tough game and I don't know if we're ready for it."

He wasn't done, though.

"As of right now — whatever it was — a 21-point spread ain't enough. We ain't even close to that right now."

OK then.

Black picks: Gamecocks 38, Wildcats 10

Other National Games of Some Renown

No. 25 Maryland at No. 8 Florida State, Noon

This seems like the kind of game the new-era Seminoles will find a way to lose. And picking against the Terrapins hasn't worked well for me this season.

I guess I'll tempt fate one more time.

Black picks: Seminoles 42, Terrapins 21

Michigan State at Iowa, Noon

Going with Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz didn't let me down when I picked him to beat Minnesota last week, so why mess with a good thing?

(Also, Iowa has won three of the past four meetings between these two and seven of its last eight games at home.)

Black picks: Hawkeyes 20, Spartans 14

Minnesota at No. 19 Michigan, 3:30 p.m.

I'm not going to say much here. Minnesota lost to Iowa last week 23-7. Michigan, despite its struggles in victories against Akron and Connecticut, is far better than the Hawkeyes, and a team that seems to play to the level of its competition.

That being said, I expect Michigan to have The Little Brown Jug (this game's rivalry trophy) in its hands by the end of the third quarter.

Black picks: Wolverines 40, Golden Gophers 14

Georgia Tech at No. 14 Miami, 3:30 p.m.

Side story: I do another weekly college football "pick 'em" with my family. Last week, I stupidly went with Georgia Tech to knock off Virginia Tech at home. Just a terrible decision on my part. As it is, the Yellow Jackets haven't had much luck against the Hurricanes in recent years, losing the past four meetings between the two.

And do I need to mention that Georgia Tech has lost six straight games versus ranked foes?

Black picks: Hurricanes 45, Yellow Jackets 17

TCU at No. 11 Oklahoma, 7 p.m.

Gosh, has it really been nine years since TCU went into Norman and beat Oklahoma 17-10? After Saturday is over, it probably will even longer to the Horned Frogs and their supporters.

Black picks: Sooners 38, Horned Frogs

No. 22 Arizona State at Notre Dame, (at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas) 7:30 p.m.

The Sun Devils' offense couldn't be stopped last week in a game that sent Southern California coach Lane Kiffin into the unemployment line. Notre Dame's defense, while talented, has yet to live up to expectations this season. And Arizona State's defense has been porous against the run, giving up 718 yards in its last three games.

Look for the Fighting Irish to play keep away with junior running back George Atkinson to snap their three-game losing streak to ranked opponents.

Black picks: Fighting Irish 27, Sun Devils 17

West Virginia at No. 17 Baylor, 7 p.m.

West Virginia came back from the dead last week. After Maryland whacked them 38-0 in Baltimore two weeks ago, they somehow beat Oklahoma State last week 30-21. I don't think they'll stay resuscitated for long.

Have you seen Baylor's offense this year? It's well, offensive, how good it has been. The Bears are averaging 69.7 points and 751.3 yards per game this year. Take a moment to ponder that. Read it again if you need to.

No, the Bears won't reach either of those averages Saturday, but it won't stop them from beginning the year 4-0.

Black picks: Bears 59, Mountaineers 23

No. 15 Washington at No. 5 Stanford, 10:30 p.m.

The Huskies look like they are finally starting to reestablish themselves as a contender in the Pac-12 Conference. The Cardinal have been there for a few years now.

Washington will try valiantly, but this game will show it is still a notch below Stanford and Oregon in the Pac-12.

Black picks: Cardinal 34, Huskies 28

The Game You Really Care About

No. 24 Ole Miss at Auburn, 7 p.m.

If you happened to read my beat column — which if you didn't, can be found here — or checked in with my live chat Thursday, you might know which way I'm leaning here. Yes, for the second week in a row, I'm picking against the Tigers. (Actually, I didn't pick against the Tigers in their last outing; I still picked LSU, but ... yeah, let's just move on.) Both teams run somewhat-similar offenses, and should be able to move the ball with success.

The difference then, comes down to the Rebels being more familiar with head coach Hugh Freeze's scheme after playing 17 games under him. Any way one wants to spin it, Ole Miss has simply had more time to understand exactly what Freeze wants to do. After four games, Auburn hasn't reached that point with Gus Malzahn yet.

I'll make one prediction-within-a-prediction, though: I say this is the game Nick Marshall finally gets his first rushing touchdown. At least, the first that isn't called back because of a penalty.

Regardless, the game should be close, and I would be shocked if the final margin isn't single-digits either way.

Black picks: Rebels 28, Tigers 24

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 4 Ohio State at No. 16 Northwestern, 8 p.m.

Ohio State's losing streak has to come to an end at some point, right? So why not this week? I know, I know. You'll point to the fact Ohio State has won 28 of the last 29 times the two teams have met, and that in the last three matchups, the Buckeyes have outscored the Wildcats by 130 points.

But as I like to say, if games were played on paper, there would never be any upsets.

(If Ohio State ends up winning by 20-plus points, you have my permission to mercilessly taunt me about making an awful prediction.)

Black’s pick: Wildcats 34, Buckeyes 31

Last week: 14-1

Season: 63-12

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